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Utah Jazz vs Portland Trailblazers: Five Things to Watch

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Playoffs, we’re talking about playoffs!

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz (47-30) are closing in on the playoffs and, hopefully, home court advantage as they face the Portland Trailblazers (38-39). It won’t be easy as the Blazers are clinging to the eighth seed, desperate to make the playoffs. If the Jazz want to win, they’ll need to treat this like a playoff game, because that’s what they’re going to get from the Blazers.

I LOVE this type of atmosphere. I LOVE this game!

Here’s five things to watch for...

1. Who’s running the show?

George Hill has missed the last three games due to disastrous comments a groin pull and in his place it’s been the Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack show. It’s gone relatively well as the Jazz have gone 2-1 in that stretch (this is where I stop myself from the hot takes). Some games Exum has looked great (most recently against San Antonio) and some Mack has looked good (against Washington).

Will we see George Hill come back, or will the Jazz play it safe? My guess is Hill will rest. This season the Jazz have erred on the side of caution with their players. Perhaps they bring him back when they bring back Favors, who is rumored to be coming back soon. What I want is a healthy team. If I have to choose between health and homecourt, I definitely go with health. Get better, George!

2. Can Gordon break his slump?

Against San Antonio, Gordon Hayward shot 31% from the field, against the Wizards he was 1/6 from 3. My guess is Gordon’s leg contusion is bothering him a little bit. He’s seeming to force it at times without finding a rhythm. It could be that he is just missing shots. That’s what he says, at least.

It’s pretty safe to say that if Gordon has a better shooting performance against San Antonio we win that game. To beat the Blazers we need all-star Gordon Hayward.

3. Can our guards step up against Lillard and McCollum?

Perfect timing! The Jazz get to play the Blazers the same month that Damian Lillard won the Western Conference Player of the Month Award.

Against the Spurs, an old Tony Parker went off against our guards (although Exum did show some great signs in the second quarter). If the Jazz have any chance against the Blazers, they’ll have to contain Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, or this one could be over quickly.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

4. Will the Jazz continue to be destroyed by Rudy’s comments?

The fallout from Rudy’s comments has been harrowing, guys. The team has absolutely imploded, they are losing games, screaming and yelling... wait that’s the Cavaliers.

Since Rudy Gobert called out the team for not competing, the Jazz are 3-1. Was it dangerous for Rudy to say what he said? Sure. Was it wrong? No.

I will say this over and over. There is no one that cares more about winning than Rudy. Rudy doesn’t just care about winning the game, he cares about winning every possession. Every play. When you’re watching tonight, watch how mad he gets if anyone scores at the rim with Rudy nearby. He gets visibly furious. It’s Rudy’s house and someone has graffiti’d the rim with their disgusting shot. I love it.

The reason fans relate? We all know that guy at work who’s not in it for the team. The one who’s clocking in late, criticizing everyone's work, throws others under the bus for their own mistakes then leaves early without finishing what needed done. We all hate that guy. Rudy was feeling the same way we do and calling it out. In the real world, guys like that get called out all the time. It shouldn’t be different in the locker room or with the media. What’s worse, calling that stuff out or a team allowing certain players hijacking the game plan to make sure they get theirs?

I don’t think Rudy’s comments were disastrous, I think they might have saved the team.

For fun, watch the communication from Rudy during this awesome video from @nba twitter.

5. Will Rudy be dominant?

With Jusuf Nurkic out, there is a void in the inside for the Blazers. Can Rudy take advantage?

Haha, of course he will what a silly question. What I should be asking is how many craters will be left after the destruction Rudy brings to the court, and not to the locker room.